God of the Second Chance
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

Why do bad things happen to good people? When there are calamities such as floods and earthquakes, we wonder why the good suffer with the bad. Couldn’t God be more selective and punish only the evil ones? Or, as the parable in today’s Gospel tells us, why are the weeds allowed to grow with the wheat?

The Gospel this Sunday is better understood against the farming practices of Palestine (Mt. 13:24ff) The kind of weed that grows with the wheat looks similar to the wheat, especially when newly sprouted. When allowed to grow together, eventually the wheat is easier to distinguish from the weed as it grows higher, especially at harvest time. That is the reason why it is more prudent to just allow both to grow together until the harvest.

The series parables told by Jesus are ways of describing the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God includes all kinds of people. It is God who makes the final judgment as to who is good or who is bad, who belongs or does not belong to the Kingdom. Until the moment of judgment comes, everybody has a second chance, even those whom society has judged as weeds or “no good”.

Of course, most of us would consider ourselves as wheat rather than weed. We also tend to judge others as weeds – those whom we dislike or who make our life inconvenient. The problem is that some people also may see us as the weed of their life or the thorn at their side. Given our own very human personal judgments, there may be no wheat growing around. When we ask God to pull out the weeds we might get included.

Living in this world is confronting ambiguity. We would prefer to simplify things and see situations and people as absolutely black or white, weed or wheat. In a real world many seemingly good people have some hidden sin and there is goodness in many seemingly bad people. As one child puts it, “People are like zebras. They are neither black nor white. They are striped.” There are grey areas in some moral situations. When we try to do good, we have to bear with some evil. Sometimes, to save a person’s life, his arm or leg might be amputated. In a hypothetical situation of a sinking boat, a good swimmer can only save one other person and himself. He cannot save all.

Action starter: Every person has a shadow. Do you recognize yours?

Since we live as social beings, we are put in a situation where we have to act for the common good. Society has to act to keep its members safe and secure. This necessitates passing judgment on some people so that they will not be harmful to others. Some people have to be kept in jail or be punished and corrected. This is best done through the formal setting of courts. To act in a vigilante manner is to make oneself the sole criterion of judgment. In the long run this endangers the security and safety of citizens. When each person is accuser, judge, and executioner, then we are back to the laws of the jungle.

With that said, in our personal life, we try not to be judgmental people. Let us also be more aware of the shadow side of us. People are basically good. However, there is also our tendency to sin. We need God’s Spirit to free us from this inclination. As St. Paul says in the second reading, “the Spirit comes to help us, weak as we are” (Rom.8:26).

It is best therefore to leave the judgment to God. It is God who knows the depths of every person’s heart. Only God can see the motives, the determinations, the conditionings, and the degree of freedom behind our actions. As the book of Wisdom says in the first reading, “Even though you have absolute power, you are a merciful judge. You could take action against us whenever you like, but instead you rule us with great patience” (Wisdom 12:18). We can just try to do the most good that we can in every situation and act without malicious intent in all that we do. To paraphrase one saint, “Love and do what you will.” Leave the judgment to God.